|Posted by Anne Siren on January 2, 2013 at 2:50 PM|
By Michael d’Oliveira
Pompano Beach – The battle for more science, math and engineering graduates is won in the classroom.
And robotics instructor David Ellich knows fun activities and competitions are what help turn a love of those fields into lifelong careers that benefit students and society.
On Dec. 15, some of those careers may have started as over 200 elementary and middle school students from across Broward County descended on Crystal Lake Middle School to test their robotics skills in the FIRST LEGO League Robotics Tournament.
“This is how we get ‘em hooked early,” said Ellich, a robotics instructor at Atlantic Technical resident who teaches at Atlantic Technical Center in Coconut Creek and advises the school’s award-winning robotics team. “We need more engineers, scientists and mathematicians.”
This year’s tournament was designed to get students to focus on how technology can be used to better serve humanity, particularly senior citizens. Past tournament themes have dealt with the environment, transportation and nanotechnology.
The course, which had miniaturized tasks constructed of LEGOs, revolved around challenges and activities seniors often encounter in their everyday lives. Each team, using a small computer and LEGOs, had to build and program its own robot. And each robot had to be able to perform tasks including, fixing a chair, planting a garden, bowling, making a quilt, turning on a television, turning off an oven and choosing the right medicine bottle.
“They’re all related to the tasks senior citizens have to deal with,” said Victor Coto, a mechanical engineering student who served as head referee for the tournament.
The students interviewed a senior citizen with an ailment to search for innovative way to help them function.
Baresi Morse, a 5th grader at Silver Lakes Middle School in North Lauderdale, seems to already be thinking about engineering in relation to life’s challenges. “I’ve always liked engineering . . . I want to build stuff to make life easier.”
The competition, said McCrary, also develops each student’s collaboration, communication and research skills. “They’re programming robots, building robots and they’re also building their research skills.”
To get their robot to work, each team must master circumferences, fractions, gears torque, ratios, computer engineering and other concepts and disciplines.
Lascelles Reece, technology education teacher at Silver Lakes, says it’s a way to show students that those math, science and engineering concepts aren’t just found in books but also exist in the real world.
Evan Learn, a 5th grader from American Heritage School in Plantation, says “It’s kind of cool to see your robot go into action because you know you worked hard on it. When it doesn’t work you’re a little disappointed. But it doesn’t matter because you know you can fix it.”